I do a LOT of hiking around Vancouver. I’ve hiked pretty much every trail that exists within an hour of the city. (And some that don’t exist… or used to exist… or I maybe was taking a short cut? But that’s a whole other story.) My readers often ask me to recommend a hike when they visit Vancouver or to pick a trail to introduce beginners to the joys of hiking. So here are my top 6 picks for easy hikes in Vancouver for beginners and tourists. (Also known as hikes for people who love beautiful scenery and hate getting super sweaty while hiking uphill for hours.) I guarantee that each of these easy hikes in Vancouver delivers gorgeous west coast nature, with minimal effort and tons of photo ops. Plus 5 of the 6 are public transit accessible!
But first… Be Prepared
Hiking in BC is no joke. While these hikes may be steps from a bus stop and rated as easy, they are serious wilderness. Make sure you are prepared with the 10 essentials. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. Check out the great trip planning tools over at Adventure Smart. And be sure to check trail conditions online before you go, especially in the winter. Follow Leave No Trace principles to preserve the environment and ensure everyone gets a chance to experience these beautiful places.
Why you should hike it: The Stanley Park Seawall is a must do for every Vancouver tourist. You can bike it, walk it, run it, and rollerblade it. (Yup, that’s still kinda a thing here.) And it’s a wonderful way to see the ocean and the city. But… you miss out on the trails in the interior of the park. The giant old trees, the moss, the ferns, and the grassy lake where BEAVERS LIVE IN THE MIDDLE OF DOWNTOWN! (Sorry for the shouting. But we have downtown beavers. We’re so Canadian!) By all means, make the seawall your first priority in Stanley Park. But if you’re craving some real nature time, check out the trails in the interior. It’s more mellow walking than hiking, but it’s the best way to get a taste for West Coast rainforest. And it’s only 10 minutes from downtown – can’t beat that convenience.
Distance: 6km (3.7mi) loop (but longer and shorter hikes are possible). Elevation gain: minimal. Time needed: About 2 hours. Trail surface: Well-graded crushed gravel paths that are (mostly) stroller friendly. Rating: Super easy. Best time to go: All year. A great rainy/overcast day option. Guide: Full description and directions here. Bring a copy of the trail map so you can customize your route.
Why you should hike it: If you’ve heard anything about Vancouver tourist attractions, you’ve heard of the Capilano Suspension bridge – a swaying suspension bridge that crosses a deep rainforest canyon. Sounds awesome, right? But it costs $43. No bueno. But wait! There’s another (slightly smaller, way less commercial) suspension bridge nearby. It’s called the Lynn Canyon suspension bridge and it’s totally FREE! And it’s not just a bridge: there are tons of trails too. After you cross the suspension bridge, trails on either side of the canyon lead to waterfalls and viewpoints. I recommend making the short side trip to the crystal clear 30-foot pool where you can dip a toe into the icy water. This is a great hike to choose on a cloudy or rainy day to really experience the misty rainforest and canyon waterfalls.
Distance: 1.5km (1mi) (or add on another kilometer if you choose to extend your hike to the 30-foot pool). Elevation gain: 70m (230ft). Time needed: 1 hour (add another 30 min for 30-foot pool). Trail surface: Mostly smooth dirt that can be muddy and some stairs. The suspension bridge may be a challenge for people who are afraid of heights. Rating: easy. Best time to go: All year. A great rainy day option. Guide: Full description and directions here. You should also bring a copy of the trail map so you can plan your route once you arrive.
Why you should hike it: This hike is quintessentially Vancouver because you’ll get to experience the rainforest, the ocean and the top of a mountain. (Well not really the top of the mountain… but it will feel like that.) The majority of the hike is through beautiful coastal rainforest with lots of ferns, moss and wooden bridges. At the very end of the hike you’ll emerge from the forest on to a large granite outcropping (that’s the “mountain top”) with a great view of the ocean. It might feel like you are looking out into the wilderness, but the view is actually of several of Vancouver’s suburbs. And that’s pretty quintessentially Vancouver too: people living right next to nature.
Distance: 4km (2.5mi) round trip. Elevation gain: 100m (330ft). Time needed: 1.5 hours (plus photo breaks). Trail surface: Mostly dirt but there are some rooty and rocky sections as well as some stairs. Rating: Easy. Best time to go: All year. Guide: Full description and directions here.
Why you should hike it: If you want to combine an easy hike in Vancouver with the best view of the city, head to Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. A network of trails loop their way through Arbutus trees and salal bushes – typical coastal BC vegetation. Side trails head out onto rocky outcroppings with great views across to downtown. (My tip: Take the East Beach trail for the BEST view of the city.)
Distance: 6km loop (3.7mi) (or shorter). Elevation gain: minimal. Time needed: At least 2 hours, not including breaks. Trail surface: Rooty and rocky with some stairs, except on the main smooth gravel trail to the lighthouse. Rating: easy. Best time to go: All year. Guide: See my recommended route including a map here. I also recommend that you bring a copy of the trail map since there are a lot of trail junctions and it can get confusing.
Why you should hike it: What could be more Canadian than hiking up a mountain to swim in a tiny alpine lake? (Well besides beavers living in downtown Vancouver?) Hike to Mystery Lake and find out. It’s a short uphill climb from the ski hill parking lot to the lake. Along the way you’ll pass through tons of tasty blueberry bushes. (Tip: they ripen in August but the bears like them too. Make noise and read my tips for bear safety.) After crossing a few ski runs and climbing up some steep rooty slopes, you’ll arrive on granite bluffs next to the lake. Make sure to pack a swimsuit and towel to enjoy the (cold) water. (And don’t forget to bring a fleece jacket to wear afterwards to warm up.)
Distance: 3km (1.9mi) round trip. Elevation gain: 150m (500ft). Time needed: About 1.5 hours on the trail (and MUCH more at the lake). Trail surface: Rooty, rocky and steep in places. Bring hiking boots. Rating: Easy/moderate. Best time to go: Between July and September. It can be snow free as early as June but the bugs are horrendous. Wait until later in the summer and pick a warm day. Guide: Full description and directions here. Check out the trail map.
Getting there: 45 minute drive from Vancouver (click for driving directions). Unfortunately there is no public transit to this hike in the summertime.
Why you should hike it: Another one of Vancouver’s signature tourist attractions is Grouse Mountain. It started as a ski hill, but now it has year-round tourist stuff like restaurants, viewpoints, live shows, and rescued grizzly bears. (Don’t worry: They’re inside an electric fence.) If you’re considering shelling out the big bucks to take the gondola to the top ($45 – ouch!), make a whole day of it and add on a short hike. As soon as you leave the main tourist area and head out on the trails, the crowds melt away and you’ll get to experience true BC wilderness. The Thunderbird Ridge trail heads out onto a ridge top with great views of the surrounding mountains. (As long as you don’t look behind you at the city, you can pretend you are truly in the wilderness.) This is the only hike on this list that puts you up top in the mountains, over 1000m (3300ft) above the city. (But thanks to the gondola it was much easier to get up here!)
Distance: 6km (3.7mi) round trip. Elevation gain: 200m (650ft). Time needed: About 2.5 hours. Trail surface: This is a rugged backcountry trail so expect lots of rocks, roots and awkward footing. Hiking boots required. Rating: easy/moderate. Best time to go: Between July and September (otherwise it’s too snowy). Guide: Full description and directions here. Bring the trail map to avoid confusion at junctions.
An essential part of visiting Vancouver is exploring nature (and marvelling at real estate prices… but don’t get me started.) Make time in your vacation for one of these beautiful and easy hikes in Vancouver for beginners and tourists. Have questions? Hit me up in the comments.
Want more Vancouver hiking suggestions?
If you’re up for some harder hikes, check out my guide to the most Instagrammed hikes near Vancouver to up your ‘gram game.
Love the ocean? Try a coastal hike.
Want to try a “local’s secret” hike? Check out Kennedy Falls and the Big Cedar.
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